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Holocaust Survivor and Social Activist to Speak at Cal Poly

February 12, 2018

SAN LUIS OBISPO –– Cal Poly’s Center for Service in Action will host Holocaust survivor and social activist Ben Stern as the keynote speaker for the 16th Annual Change the Status Quo: A Social Justice Conference, set for Feb. 16-17.

The conference aims to empower students through Learn by Doing to challenge social norms, ask critical questions, demand solutions and make lasting social change. 

The event kicks off Friday, Feb. 16, with an evening session featuring a documentary screening of “Near Normal Man” and Q&A with filmmaker Charlene Stern. The 30-minute documentary film offers a first-hand account by Stern, a Polish Jew, who survived two ghettos, nine concentration camps, and two death marches. The film explores Stern’s role in waging a fiercely public battle against the Nazis, the ACLU and Chicago Jewish leadership in his hometown of Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s. This event is free and open to the public.

The conference continues Saturday, Feb. 17, and is headlined by Stern’s keynote address, which will focus on the fierce debate regarding First Amendment rights and hate speech. The Feb. 17 conference schedule will also feature a full day of workshops organized by Cal Poly and community experts on a wide variety of social justice issues. Workshop presenters include San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon as well as representatives from NAACP San Luis Obispo County, Cal Poly Cross Cultural Centers, Women’s March San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Dream Center and UndocuAlly Working Group.

For a full list of workshops and event details, visit Registration includes a zero-waste breakfast and lunch. Individual tickets are $15 for students and $20 for community members who pre-register. Ticket prices will increase an additional $5 at the door.

For more information about Ben Stern and the “Near Normal Man” Documentary, visit

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